Some Speculations on the Alito Pick

Here are my “no inside sources” speculations on what drove Bush to pick Alito:

a) Bush obviously had to get his base, especially those in the organizational wing of the Republican party back on side. Based on all of the initial blogging today, he succeeded completely–conservatives seem to have gone from “time to jump ship” to “all hands on deck” almost immediately.

b) The failed Miers nomination shows the downside of trying to go under-the-radar. While this may have worked in terms of blunting Democratic opposition, the firestorm over Miers shows that the base is no longer willing to go along with it.

c) If we assume that the White House is not a unified actor on nominations (a reasonable assumption), then the failed Miers nomination must have given the “whole hog” contingent in the administration leverage over the “half a loaf” types. The former, who could previously have been stigmatized as “ideologues,” now had a reasonable claim to being more pragmatic than the latter. More to the point, the folks behind the Miers nomination (including Harriet Miers!) would have had a very hard time being taken seriously in their predictions of what would happen with the nomination of their preferred candidate. This would have given the hardliners pretty free room to push whoever they preferred.

d) Connected to (a), Republicans may be worried about turnout in the 2006 Congressional races. Rallying the troops around this nomination gets the base back on side, reminds them why they’re Republicans, and leads them to believe that Bush will put up another Alito-like pick if Bush gets another vacancy in the last half of his term–thus making it imperative to hold the Senate in 2006.

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.